brazilian bikini brands

Blame it on Rio: My Favorite Brazilian Bikini Brands

Turquoise edit2Of course one of my favorite books on swimwear was written by a Brazilian. Leave it to the experts, who live in summer almost year-round, to showcase and design the world’s most beautiful swimsuits. “The Bikini Made in Brazil”, by Lilian Pacce, chronicles the history of this tiny, yet transformative part of many women’s wardrobes. Pink2Speaking of women’s wardrobes, one segment of my business at All Set Concierge is personal shopping. Over the years, my clients put their trust in me to curate pieces that they’ll cherish. And guess what is always at the top of my clients’ wish lists when I travel to Brazil? Brazilian resort wear and those sexy bikinis!Blue7

Here are a few of my favorite Brazilian bikini brands, and what I love about them!


LENNY NIEMEYER


Lenny’s designs are the gold standard when it comes to swimwear and resort wear. The prints are like artwork on your skin, as well as sexy and sturdy. If you want to feel like a goddess in your swimwear, then Lenny Niemeyer is the ultimate choice! A few years ago, I featured her maillot collection, one-pieces that were truly wearable art, in an article on Rio designers. Last spring, I had the chance to sit front row at her São Paulo Fashion Week runway show and watch her gorgeous designs glide by. The bikinis that follow are a couple from my personal collection. Take a peek!TurquoiseTurquoise edits3Turquoise edit1lenny-niemeyerNEWBRONZElenny-niemeyer


CLUBE BOSSA


I first discovered this São Paulo-based line while shopping for a client who wanted “something pink”. I came across Clube Bossa’s collection in my favorite Rio boutique, Gaoli Couture, and fell in love with their flirty designs. Clube Bossa’s style reminds me of my first Brazilian bikinis that I bought back in 2002 on my first trip to this South American destination. I remember asking the security guard where the Rosa Cha store was located(in my horrible Portuguese!) and was eventually led to a small boutique that was a shrine to all things swimwear. This string bikini is the quintessential sexy summertime staple!Pink4Pink7Rocks2


BLUE MAN RIO


Funky, fresh, functional. That is Blue Man Rio in a nutshell. You can do some serious surfing and swimming in their suits. And their designs are definite conversation starters. I’ve owned a Frida Kahlo print, a design with the cover of an old Brazilian newspaper featuring Pelé, a controversial colonial Brazil scene, and even one inspired by architecture from Brasilia. While wearing this one below, a woman sitting next to me at a Beverly Hills hotel pool party said, “They should pay you to wear these”. Maybe they should!Blue3Blue6Blue5Blue8


VIX PAULA HERMANNY


Whatever swimsuit you’re donning for the day, you’ll eventually have to put on some clothing. But the last thing you want to do when stepping from the pool or beach is to deal with complicated clothing. That’s where Vix Paula Hermanny comes in. Her resort wear is absolutely gorgeous, while being both elegant and effortless. I wish I could live in her cover-ups all of the time! Below is one of my favorite wrap dresses that easily drapes over any ensemble, followed by a pair of pants that will rival any pair of pajamas you have in terms of comfort! And it’s paired with a cute crop that I found at her boutique in Belo Horizonte. Dress1Dress3wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroNEWGREENbrazilian-resortwearGreenpants5Two things that all of these designs have in common is that they are comfortable and sexy – elements that I love in my personal wardrobe, as do many of my clients. Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into a part of my business! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Just be comfortable in your own skin. And that’s how you can be the sexiest woman that you can possibly be.”-Princess Tatiana of Greece    

For a quote on my personal shopping services, fill out the form below:

 

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Photography: Bitlab Media

Makeup: Alicia Ramirez

Wardrobe: Lenny Niemeyer, Gaoli Beach Couture, Blue Man Rio, Vix Paula Hermanny

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Seaside Splendor: Rio’s Copacabana Palace

belmond-copacabana-palaceOh Rio! The pulsating city that wraps you with sultry beaches and jutting mountains from behind. Where to rest when you want the finest in this glistening city? The crown jewel of this iconic skyline – Copacabana Palace. belmond-copacabana-palacebelmond-copacabana-palacePalatial surroundings usher you into this timeless hideaway that has been Rio’s superstar hotel since 1923. I stepped out of my taxi and was greeted by the friendliest staff, who were surprised at my Portuguese! One of the many things that I love about the Belmond hotel staff is that they instantly make you feel like you’ve known them forever, almost like old friends. It’s a comfortable luxury, not a stuffy or pretentious air, that they’ve somehow all mastered!

Settling into my suite was a dream! Sounds of bossa nova lured me towards a balcony that looked out over Brazil’s most famous beach. Peeking at my welcome gift, I was distracted by the spa menu when I saw “Jet Lag Treatment”. This sounded like exactly what I needed! I pulled myself away from my beautiful beachside room, only to be greeted at the spa – another place I might find hard to leave! My therapist magically massaged every flight delay, emotional support peacock, and security line right out of my tired body. Every hotel needs this spa service!

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Fully soothed and relaxed, I made my way to the aquamarine pool below. I loved every detail at Copacabana Palace – the wooden sculptures, a private dining nook under a tree, and of course, the warm service from the Belmond staff. Enjoying the most delicious ceviche ever, I talked with a nearby guest about my dining options for later, thrilled to learn about the Michelin-starred Mee right across the pool. Or maybe Cipriani, which fuses Northern Italian cuisine with local ingredients. Decisions, decisions! Mulling over my next meal, I gazed at birds drifting overhead and fell into a deep sleep.

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Why would I want to leave? Well with an invite to Veste Rio, a semiannual fashion conference that highlights the biggest names in Rio de Janeiro, the decision was almost made for me. Brands like Lenny Niemeyer and Osklen lure conference goers with the latest from their collections. Fashion is not normally the first thing you think of when you hear Rio de Janeiro, but trust me. This is the place to get your swimwear and everything for your summer fête. These people know how to create designs that will have you looking stunning in even the most sweltering heat – it’s what they do.where-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeirowhere-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeiro

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One step closer to Cristo in Gaoli’s silks

My invite to Veste Rio, a gift from my friends at Gaoli Rio, was just a tease of the latest in Brazilian fashion. Gaoli is my favorite boutique that houses many of my beloved brands from all over Brazil. I always make a stop here when shopping for my personal stylist clients. One visit and you’re set with everything you need for your seaside adventures! Flowing gowns and featherweight caftans are their specialty, with accompanying bikinis to match, of course.where-to-shop-in-rio-de-janeiro

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Glittering like the stars in Gaoli Beach Couture

A lucky discovery at Veste Rio was Mundo Isla, a local jewelry company that had the most eye-catching display. Each piece looked like a fisherman’s treasure as they dangled from driftwood tangled in nets. Besides this seaside-inspired show of their jewels, I was entranced by the calming blues and pearly whites that reminded me of the waves of Rio’s nearby beaches.

The next day, I paid a visit to their showroom and met the two founders of Mundo Isla, Ana Jacob and Luiza Bellizzi. I felt an instant connection with these two creative ladies who shared their story over an afternoon of coffee and confections. “When I met Ana, I instantly fell in love with her style; her home was a mixture of ethnic elements that made the place so unique, and we connected because of this shared vibe. After talking to Ana about Mundo Isla, I quit my job and took a course in jewelry making so that I could learn her craft and join her unique brand,” Luiza divulged with a smile.

IslacolarIt’s definitely unique. Walking through their gallery, I felt as though the little girl inside me who used to gather seashells on the shore was eager and excited by each piece. “Our ideal muse is someone who isn’t worried about being trendy, but quite the opposite. A woman who is unique, and looking for a non-traditional style that encourages a casual elegance,” Ana shared as she showed me some of their recent collection.

As Ana continued to tell their story, it sounded like Mundo Isla had been birthed long before these two women met. “I had been designing jewelry since I was in college, drawing on my architecture degree as many designers do, like Antonio Bernardo and Lenny Niemeyer, and sold my jewelry at fairs here and abroad. Luiza had more experience in marketing and so we complemented each other. But coincidentally, I had planned a vacation to Greece for May 2015, the same year we launched Mundo Isla, so I did some research once I was there and later used the Greek jewelry as a source of inspiration, since they heavily use silver for their jewelry. Their style is exactly the same that both Luiza and I like – a stripped down style. I even got to know an atelier of an artist who also uses Brazilian stones. That trip was fundamental to our success!”

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Seaside splendor at Copacabana Palace

Ah, yes! The magic inspiration of travel! I left their boutique rejuvenated and inspired. On the drive back to Copacabana Palace, I was reminded of their seaside muse as I looked out to Rio’s picturesque shoreline. That’s one of the best things about this hotel – you’re steps from the beautiful beach, but are instantly transported to another world once you step foot inside Belmond’s seaside splendor.

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“Meet me at Copacabana Palace…”

Nightfall crept over the shore, and I stepped onto my balcony and watched a glorious sunset as I waited for my friends to arrive for a drink at the most famed meeting place in Rio – Copacabana Palace.

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Gaoli’s summer gowns – always perfect for a dinner at Copacabana Palace!

Are you ready to go to Rio? Let me plan your trip!

Article credits

Wardrobe: Gaoli Beach Couture

Makeup: Chanel

Photographer: J.J. Soto

Interview translation: Thamara Valença and Jazon Santos

Aquele Abraço

Loosely translated as “that embrace”, the title of this famous Gilberto Gil song captures the sentiment of the first time I stepped foot on Brazilian soil 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve had the fortunate fate of vacationing, living, and adventuring in this country that welcomed me in its warm embrace like a close friend.Sarah_Taylor_9

And it’s felt that way ever since. Having continually returned to Rio de Janeiro, or the “cidade maravilhosa” as it’s known by its neighbors and fellow Brazilians, I discover a new facet of this glittering urban gem with each visit.

My latest discovery happened, serendipitously as it seemed, when I attended a yoga class one Saturday morning. I met Kauan at a cultural center down the street from my apartment in Botafogo. As she arrived, I instantly knew she was the teacher from her commanding walk that was fit for a reigning queen. Although I practice yoga, I found myself struggling to keep up with her challenging class “Flexionamento.” With every one of her lithe movements and authoritative, yet reassuring chants of “respira” and “relaxa”, I felt a tad more at ease as the class progressed. After class, I had the chance to learn more about my captivating instructor. Trained in dance performance with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts, it turns out Kauan is a bit like royalty. She comes from the Gracie family, pioneers in the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and fitness champions throughout the world.

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Arataca storefront, Copacabana

Upon learning that we were both raised in Los Angeles, we became instant friends. As we talked, Kauan shared the story of how her family made açai famous. This Amazonian fruit, touted for its antioxidant and energy-boosting qualities, is somewhat of a Brazilian delicacy. Kauan recently learned of her family’s connection to the açai culture here in Rio while casually eavesdropping a conversation between a patron and the man behind the counter at Arataca, a Copacabana landmark frequented by author Paulo Coelho and other Brazilian greats.

Her eyes glistened as she recounted the details: “I go into Arataca and overhear this old man saying that he brought açai to Rio, but I knew that he had to be wrong because as far as I knew, it was my family who brought açai to Rio. So I asked him to tell me more and it turns out he was a retired pilot who used to fly the plane that literally brought açai from Pará to Rio.”

As the story goes, Kauan’s great uncle Carlos lived in the building above Arataca and used to eat this delicious, cool treat after training. Being one of the key members of this famous sport family in the city, and throughout Brasil, people started to emulate Carlos, his diet, and his lifestyle, and began to enjoy this ambrosia from the north, making açai more popular as the years went on. “No one here really ate it before”, Kauan mused, “so in a way my family brought it to Rio, too!”

Enthralled with her story, I asked if she’d take me to this açai landmark. Learning more about her story over this delicious local delight, Kauan said that she had been dancing her whole life and that given her family history, fitness and health were always at the forefront of her life. She recounted how in her post-graduate work in Italy, she didn’t really find the dance and styles she was looking for and eventually made the move to Rio, a natural next step in search of her family’s roots and progression as a dancer. “The outdoor lifestyle drew me in immediately. Rio stimulated a lot in me – I knew I wanted to stay.” Luckily, her transition was easy. She landed a job as a dance teacher after attending a class at a nearby school with a friend. The teacher, commenting on her “talent, spontaneity, and connection with the students”, hired her immediately. It was here that Kauan got connected with Carlinhos de Jesus, famous samba school choreographer and judge of Dança dos Famosos.

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Kauan and her post-workout treat

For all things gastronomy, I defer to my friend and celebrated food photographer, Tomás Rangel. With the tough assignment of photographing Rio’s award-winning restaurants and bars for Veja’s annual Comer & Beber issue, Tomás is the source for whatever pleases your palate. Lucky to have him as my tour guide on an afternoon stroll through Santa Tereza, I was enchanted with the old world charm of this neighborhood that offers sweeping views of the city.

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Our first stop was to an unnamed padaria that Tomás stated had the best “pão de queijo”, or cheese bread, in Rio. And he should know. With family lineage from Minas Gerais, which is known for having the best pão de queijo in the country, Tomás made some recommendations on other places in the area to grab a bite, including the outdoor café, “Simplesmente” that sat right across from our anonymous bakery. Wandering around the winding streets of Santa Tereza, we stopped at the Museu da Chácara do Céu to take in some of the breathtaking views that offered a panorama of the city below and a glimpse of the ever-watchful Cristo Redentor. Cristo

Weaving our way through the streets lined with boutiques, bars, and beautiful churches, we stopped for a drink at Bar do Mineiro. Sticking with the theme, we both agreed that it was a welcome reprieve from the afternoon jaunt. Having lived in Minas, I asked Tomás about his impressions of Minas cuisine and if it’s impacted Rio menus. We compared notes on our favorite dishes from this state, deciding that Minas Gerais should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Ruminating on the delectable demands of his assignments as a food photographer, Tomás and I decided that I would have to return to the city soon to continue my sampling of Rio’s culinary scene.

On the way back from Santa Tereza, I stopped by Catete, a neighborhood absent of any tourist flair, but with all of the energy of this city’s heartbeat. I wandered over to Palácio do Catete, wanting to see the photography exhibit by anthropologist Anthony Leeds entitled “O Rio Que Se Queria Negar.” Roughly translated as “Rio In Denial”, Leeds’ black and white photos highlighted life in the favelas during his fieldwork in the 1960’s, casting a sobering and poignant glimpse into the construction of Rio’s landscape.

FavelaWhile reading the captions on each picture, I realized although I had lived in Brazil and traveled here many times, I never quite understood the labor migration and urban development that resulted in this city’s sprawling ghettos. I returned to my apartment and looked up some of Leeds’ work, which led me down the virtual path of a crash course in Brazilian socioeconomics. My curiosity, possibly intensified by the occurrence of Brazil’s recent Dia da Consciência Negra, a holiday analogous to our Black History Month here in the U.S., heightened the similarities between the two countries when it comes to the intersection of race, class, income, and upward mobility. That evening, as I translated some of the lyrics of the samba songs woven throughout Leeds’ images, it was with a heavy heart that I began to understand the title of the exhibit and I wondered at what point we’ll stop denying injustice and begin to acknowledge the chasm that exists between our communities.

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Vendor

Of course it wouldn’t be the quintessential Rio vacation without a visit to its beaches, made famous with songs like João Gilberto’s “Garota de Ipanema” and Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana.” Rio’s beaches are not for the faint of heart. Before you even step foot on the steaming sand, you are greeted by an ambush of sights, smells, and sounds that embody the carnival spirit that this city is famous for sharing with the world. Once you’ve nestled into the sand with a chair and umbrella, highly recommended by the way, you’ll see vendors selling everything from rosaries and holy cards, to beer and bikinis. This flurry of activity is set against the backdrop of bronzed bodies basking in the balmy heat, some of whom stand like proud peacocks on the shore.

When I need a respite from this lively scene, I make my way to the rock formation that divides Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, Arpoador. An ideal lookout for those trying to capture the perfect shot of Dois Irmãos in the distance, or for locals diving off of the cliffs into the whirling sea below, Arpoador always feels like a world away, although it’s only a few steps from the avenue. While up here, I make it a point to meditate and thank the universe for the magnificent memories of my visit. As I bask in the glorious sunshine, I can hear the hum of the frigate birds swooping by, some diving into the waves that wash up on the rocks nearby.

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Lenny Niemeyer store in Ipanema

To outfit yourself for the coastline of Ipanema, or really anywhere else in the world that admires gorgeous beach attire, you must stop by Lenny Niemeyer. Beyond just outfitting you with a proper Brazilian bikini for your beach visit or afternoon pool party, Lenny’s colors, cuts, and canvas of styles put most resort wear to shame. Made famous by word of mouth amongst Rio’s fashion mavens of the 80’s, Lenny combined her background in architecture with a love of lush landscapes and natural beauty to launch her eponymous swimsuit collection. One visit to her boutique will provide you with everything you need to look the stylish part on your warm weather adventures.

Making my way along the animated Ipanema avenues, my next stop was to one of my favorite music stores, Toca do Vinícius. This is a mecca for anyone who considers themselves a Bossa Nova enthusiast, or for those in search of an obscure Brazilian jazz record. Named after one of the godfathers of bossa nova, Vinícius de Morães, this tiny treasure of a shop captures the spirit, and the soundtrack, of Rio. Standing in this “library of bossa nova”, I am instantly transported to memories of sitting in my grandfather’s office with the melodies of João Gilberto playing in the background.

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Interior of Toca do Vinícius

 

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Untitled, by Adriano de Aquino

Later that afternoon, I headed to the other side of town to the Museum of Modern Art. I was again transported to 1960’s Brazil, revealing yet another perspective on life during this tumultuous time in the country’s history. The exposition, “Opinião 65”, commemorated the 50th anniversary of the original exhibit that introduced controversial artwork by Roberto Magalhães, Antonio Días, Carlos Vergara, Hélio Oiticica, and other avant-garde artists who used their canvases to speak out against the military coup of 1964. Given the protagonistic context of this period in Brazilian history, it is no surprise that this spirit of rebellion showed up in other art forms of this era.

 

While looking at one of my favorite paintings, Fausto, Mefistófeles e Guida, an oil piece by Carlos Vergara, I was instantly transported back to my first visit to the opera with my father. He took me to the San Francisco Opera House to see Faust, quite a hefty piece for my first opera, making it all the more memorable, of course. Devouring any material I could find about the plot, I eagerly read up on Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles, the Devil’s representative. Oddly enough, I identified with the protagonist’s hunger for endless knowledge, and empathized with his perpetual plight.

As I wandered through the exhibit, I was drawn to the sound of bossa nova muddled by voices in Portuguese, eventually ending up in front a video piece featuring interviews of some of these neo-expressionist artists. Discussing the initial exhibit in 1965 and how it was a radical departure from what had been done in Brazil until that point, Vergara stated that “our goal was not only to fight the military, but to fight complacency. The complacency of the people with themselves, and we had choices to make. Art is a field of action.”

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Fausto, Mefistófeles, e Guida by Carlos Vergara

Back home in Botafogo, I met up with one of my former students to catch up over at one of my favorite neighborhoods spots, Hell’s Burguer. While it’s not the only

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Trifecta at lunch

burger joint in town, it has definitely made its mark with the locals, as there is rarely a time I’ve been by where there isn’t a bit of a wait. But it’s well worth it. The menu is small; burgers and fries, with a small sampling of beers and other cold beverages. My usual order is simple: the house named Hell’s Burguer, a juicy, grilled rib meat patty topped with a generous amount of cheese, both sandwiched between a soft bun. It’s accompanied by steak fries perfectly cupped to scoop up the house-made spicy sauce, nicknamed “So Hot It’s Stupid.” Which it’s not. Brazilians don’t really have a palate for spicy food, unless you’re in the northeast or a few other pockets of Brazil. Either way, try it, as well as their Voodoo BBQ Sauce – they’re both delicious!

After finishing our hamburger feast, my student, a fellow football fanatic, talked about the upcoming Rio Olympics and the changes that were happening all over the city. Working to strengthen the infrastructure for this impending sports competition, Rio has faced quite a few challenges preparing itself to host athletes, fans, and tourists from all over the globe. But the more we talked, we both remained hopeful that this “marvelous city” will live up to its nickname as it prepares to showcase this historic event on its urban stage in just a few months.

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London Calling

I knew my money was well spent on the London Rock Walk tour when our British guide made the controversial statement about how rock ‘n’ roll started in the U.S. Before leaving our meeting spot near Tottenham Station, our guide, Richard, proceeded to tell us the story of Vince Taylor and the Playboys, his move to California, his move back to London, all while weaving in stories of Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and the Comets, and other rock ‘n’ roll forefathers. Richard, who I imagined could probably weave a good ghost story around the campfire, kept us on the edge of our seats while we wandered through London’s musical landmarks to his soundtrack of storybook snippets about the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, Elton John, The Who, and other musical greats.

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Guitar shop along Tin Pan Alley

Passing through Tin Pan Alley, our group eagerly listened as Richard deftly told how the war, the end of compulsory military service, and school regulations had shaped music history and the bands that had come out of Britain during that era. Circling back to his opening character, Vince Taylor, Richard told the tragic tale of Taylor’s demise into drugs and alcohol, and his relationship with David Bowie. By far it was my favorite anecdote, probably because the main character shares my father’s name, but also because I was nearly in tears as Richard shared how their friendship inspired the famous song “Ziggy Stardust”.

Not wanting the tour to end, our group wrapped up with a lively question and answer session at Carnaby Street. At nearby Camellia’s Tea House, a few of us enjoyed that English tradition of afternoon tea and compared notes on all that we had heard on the Rock Walk tour. Sipping on a pot of handmade “Dancing Rose and Violet” tea, I enjoyed buttery scones, with a medley of clotted cream, lemon curd, and the most perfectly sweet raspberry jam.

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Head this way to the rock ‘n’ roll landmark

After wandering through the shops on Carnaby Street, I took the tube over to Camden. Coming up to the street, I was met with rows of stores selling rock-inspired clothes, pins, signs, and vintage wares. Not knowing which direction to go, I wandered towards The Regent’s Park and dipped into No Hit Records. Searching for a portable souvenir for my brother, I spent some time flipping through their extensive punk collection and left with a couple of records based on the clerk’s recommendations. Not wanting to leave this gem of a music shop, I asked him where to go that night and he recommended checking out the Melbourne Ska Orchestra that was playing nearby at The Forge.

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Treasures at Alfie’s Antiques

Inspired by the previous day’s rock ‘n’ roll history lesson, I made my way over to Abbey Road. Getting a bit lost in the neighborhood, I wandered down a side street where I came upon an antique mall. Hoping to get directions from one of the antique dealers, I wandered through countless booths of art, jewelry, and enough treasures to make me wish I had brought another suitcase. My favorite shop was a second floor room full of light fixtures; enough to make any interior designer swoon.

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Crystal blue skies at the Rooftop Cafe

Weaving along, I learned that this marvelous place I had stumbled upon was known as Alfie’s Antiques. I had a chance to talk with one of the antique dealers who pointed me towards the famous music landmark with his parting words: “don’t get hit by a car!” Thanking him for his guidance and his tips on what else to see in the area, I realized I had spent over an hour browsing through the booths, so I took a break at the rooftop cafe. A gorgeous summer sky greeted me, as I enjoyed a refreshingly chilled pea soup and crunchy housemade bread.

Eager to reach my destination, I followed the store owner’s directions and headed up the street til I saw throngs of people dodging car horns. Watching groups of families and friends reenact the famous Beatles’ cover for the eponymous album, I snapped some pictures of Abbey Road studio and waited my turn. Nearly getting hit a couple of times, I quickly made my way across the street and inspected the pictures taken by my newfound friends. After returning the favor, I spliced together a few of my photos for an amateur replica of the world famous record cover.

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Fine Cell Work boutique

My next stop was Fine Cell Work, a non-profit organization that trains prisoners in skilled needlework and handicrafts. After learning about their “trunk show” from Time Out London, I knew that I had to stop by for a peek at their boutique in Victoria. Once inside their small showroom, I had a chance to browse through hand-embroidered quilts, needlepoint pillows, and even some larger pieces like custom ottomans. Dominic, one of Fine Cell’s volunteer staff, shared some of the history of Fine Cell, how their program has helped over 400 incarcerated men and women learn a new skill, and anecdotes from their volunteers who conduct on-site needlework classes at prisons all over England and Wales. While we compared ideas on everything from prison reform to the lost art of handicrafts, Dominic helped me choose a pillow with the Union Jack emblem-a quintessential British souvenir.

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Detail of Rude Boy exhibit featuring Joshua Kane

Leaving the Fine Cell boutique, I wandered up the street and did the obligatory walk by the popular British landmarks Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, all while marveling at the lush greenery of the parks in between. My next stop was The Old Spitalfields Market to visit the studio of Joshua Kane Bespoke. I first learned of this gifted menswear designer while viewing the Rude Boy exhibit at Somerset House earlier in the week. Finding his site on Instagram, it turned out Joshua’s flagship store was right near where I was staying. Beckoned by the signature brass necklace I saw on his site, I paid a visit to his shop and luckily had a chance to meet Joshua right before he was closing for the night. An animated mix of dandy and dapper, Joshua was a true gentleman and showed me around his studio, while giving me a little history on his career as a designer and tailor. Boxing up my necklace, he offered tips on where to go in London that night and some must-see spots for my next visit.

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Transported in time, and cuisine, to Bombay

Making my way to dinner, I stopped in Rough Trade Records, because one can never visit enough record stores! In absolute bliss, I paced through rows of vinyl, read some staff recommendations, and heard a sneak peek of Led Zeppelin’s highly anticipated release of their reissue campaign. I eventually reunited with friends for a farewell dinner at Dishoom in Shoreditch. Having already enjoyed lunch here earlier in the week, I knew what to expect from this mouthwatering Bombay inspired cuisine. Taking some recommendations from our server, we dined on the most exquisitely assembled dinner, perfectly presented for sharing. Of course my favorite was the Black Dahl, their signature dish that’s simmered for over 24 hours and had me wishing I lived nearby. Relishing each bite of this spicy and savory cuisine, my friends and I shared stories from the day and ideas on how to get me across the pond for another visit.

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Namesake near Rough Trade Records

Family Ties

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Islands near Anacortes, Washington

My dad used to have an old adage: “there are two seasons in Seattle: August and the rest of the year.” His local wisdom explained why I summered here as a child, and why I never visited during any of the other months. Seattle, the site for a recent family reunion, is the cosmopolitan gem of the Pacific Northwest. Boasting a beautiful backdrop of lush evergreens, the city acted as an anchor for my exploration of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.

Down by the seaside
Down by the seaside

Flying in on a Friday afternoon, downtown Seattle welcomed me with a crisp, fresh breeze and stark, blue sky. Fighting hunger pangs from my flight, I dipped into my favorite pub, The Brooklyn. Just needing a quick bite to hold me over until dinner, I debated between the baker’s dozen and the beer & oyster flight, which pairs 4 draft brews and a complementary oyster for each. With eyes bigger than my stomach, I ultimately opted for more oysters. These hand picked delicacies, sourced from Washington, British Columbia, and California, did not disappoint. Served up with accompanying sauces, my baker’s dozen hit the spot and was polished off with the perfect partner, a clean and citrusy Haystack Hefeweizen from local brewery, Snoqualmie Falls.

Street Art, Downtown Seattle
Street Art, Downtown Seattle

Wandering through downtown, I passed some vibrant murals that reminded me of a recent art walk I did in Los Angeles. I ended up at Pike Place Market, which is an obligatory stop for anyone visiting Seattle, and my eyes, ears, and nose were met with an array of sensory delights such as hot buttered perogies, fresh seafood, and colorful vegetables. Stopping by Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in hopes of finding a hostess gift, I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of house made cheeses that were being churned right behind me! After sampling a few of the staff favorites, I opted for a few tubs of cheese curds after the salesman ensured me that they’d last a few hours at room temperature, and would make a great appetizer for Friday night’s dinner.

Delectable delights from Beecher's
Delectable delights from Beecher’s

Weaving my way over to historic Pioneer Square, I made a stop at one of my favorite shops in Seattle, Laguna Pottery. Greeted by rainbowed rows of Bauer, Franciscan, and Fiestaware dishes, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Laguna Pottery is a must-see for any pottery enthusiast hoping to find a unique piece to fill in their collection. Constrained by both my budget and space in my carry-on luggage, I chose a small turquoise Fiestaware serving platter from the colorful sea of cups, plates, and dinnerware.

Puget Sound Ferry Boat map
Puget Sound Ferry Boat map

With my teal treasure in tow, I made my way to the ferry for the next stop on my itinerary. The ferry system is a great way to see the expansive landscape of this picturesque region. Whether traveling by car, bike, or on foot, the passengers are ferried along seaside towns throughout the Sound.

Tree of Heaven mural in Port Townsend, Washington
Tree of Heaven mural in Port Townsend, Washington

Meeting up with other members of my family, we congregated at the ferry dock and meandered through the seaside town of Port Townsend. Although I had been to Port Townsend many times before, I discovered a new boutique, the Green Eyeshade. The Green Eyeshade, situated right in the middle of Water Street, is the perfect store to find a unique hostess gift, quirky cocktail napkins, or that elusive kitchen gadget. I always scoop up a few hard to find unscented tapers for dinner parties, knowing there’s not many guests who enjoy eating salmon smothered in the scent of sandalwood, and this store had them in every color and size. After taking a break at Pippa’s Real Tea for a refreshment, my family and I gathered nearby and planned out the rest of the weekend.

View of the bay from Water Street, Port Townsend
View of the bay from Water Street, Port Townsend

Unlike the typical family reunion, which features a dodgeball game and water balloon toss, my family’s uniting activity is antiquing. In almost sportlike fashion, we huddle at the front of the store and advise each other about what’s on our “hit list”: radios, butter pats, car shop signs, ivory jewelry, and other odd requests. First stop on our antiquing adventure is Snohomish. Voted by Budget Travel as one of America’s “Coolest Small Towns”, Snohomish is the unofficial antique capital of the Northwest. The quaint downtown, which is nestled along the Snohomish River, hosts boutiques, cafes, and plenty of antique stores. To fuel our day, we started at Snohomish Bakery, where I opted for a well-balanced breakfast of vegetable quiche and a sticky bun. Midway through the day, my family reconvened to share with each other the trinkets and treasures that we uncovered during the morning expedition. My proud find from Antique Station was an antique lipstick holder that I held up like a brand new puppy for everyone to see.

Dad
Dad by the shore

After a long day, my dad arranged a bonfire where family members, young and old, shared stories and reminisced over those classic summer staples of hamburgers, hot dogs, and s’mores. But the highlight of this balmy summer evening was the dedication of the Marion E. Taylor library. Built by my father with careful attention to the angle of the sun, timing of sunsets, and shade of the tall trees, this craftsman’s masterpiece features stained glass from England, family photos, a small fireplace, and a literary collection to keep one busy through the winter.

Bookshelf
Before you see the movies…

While dedicating the library, which bears my grandmother’s name, my father said a few poignant words and played Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust” to close the night. As I looked up at the star-filled sky with teary eyes, I thought about value of family, relationships, and the ties that carry us through.

Storefront of Calico Cupboard
Storefront of Calico Cupboard in downtown La Conner

The next morning launched the last leg of the reunion weekend in La Conner. The day commenced with a visit to Calico Cupboard, whose tagline is “best buns in town”. Enticed by the motto, I started the day with my weekend diet of quiche and a sticky bun. But this time, I opted for the house special, which was a sticky bun smothered with fresh raspberry compote. Walking off our breakfast, my dad and I stopped in his favorite store, The Wood Merchant. Marveling at the handcarved wood that fabricated everything from rocking chairs to jewelry racks, I was impressed with the designs and talent of many of the featured artists. Afterwards, I dipped into the neighboring boutique, Pelindaba Lavender, where I picked up a birthday gift for a friend whose favorite color is purple, as well as some culinary lavender for myself.

Admiring the view on Whidbey Island
Admiring the view on Whidbey Island

Weaving our way through Whidbey Island, I was mesmerized by the endless farmlands with dizzying rows of colorful tulips, daffodils, and irises. Stopping for a quick break at Snow Goose Produce was a welcome surprise. Greeted by the aroma of freshly pressed waffle cones, my two tough decisions were what ice cream flavor to choose and how much produce to squish into my carry-on luggage. Boxes of green peas, red raspberries, and plump marionberries were calling my name. The neighboring countryside, lush with seasonal crops, made this a difficult choice. Eager to grab bushels of this picturesque produce, I restrained myself and purchased a modest pound of green peas. En route to the airport, my family and I used the time to catch up and connect, retelling stories of reunions past, and brainstorming ideas for our next one. With a soundtrack of laughter and chatter, we made more memories, which is truly the essence of all reunions.

Family ties
Family ties

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